- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2014

Alex Sink, who was the model for the Democratic congressional candidate of 2014, lost what was supposed to be a slam-dunk victory Tuesday in Florida. She got the slam, but not the dunk, and departs the arena leaving a valuable lesson for her party.

The Democrats spent lavishly in the district, which includes St. Petersburg and hugs the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, confident that voters who twice gave majorities to President Obama would respond eagerly to a candidate much like him.

There was plenty of money to spread the message. She spent $5.4 million on the race, nearly $1 million more than David Jolly, a lackluster lobbyist who seemed to represent everything about Washington that everybody says they don’t like, lobbyists having become the lepers of the political process, spreading their taint across the body politic.

She brought impressive cred to the race. She was almost elected governor of Florida four years ago, losing by a haunting 1 percent, and was the chief financial officer of the state of Florida. She was never the girl frightened by math.

She had great name recognition (almost nobody had ever heard of Mr. Jolly). She was the great-granddaughter of Chang Bunker, one of the famous conjoined Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker.

She even shared an iconic hometown, Mount Airy, N.C., with Andy Griffith, the late, great sheriff of Mayberry. What else could a consultant and image-maker need?

Ms. Sink said all the things Democrats and enlightened Republicans are expected to hear (if they know what’s good for them), and then some. She stood by the president and his health care scheme when everybody else is looking for the exits.

She lost. Not by a big margin, 2 percentage points, but a big-enough margin.

The lesson she leaves her party is a lesson of how not to campaign for Congress this year. Anyone who looks to hers as the model campaign is asking for a one-way ticket to Oblivion, with a ride in the middle seat.

She tried to change the subject while Mr. Jolly was talking, talking and talking about Obamacare, but she changed it to a subject that most people regard as goofier than Obamacare.

She flooded the broadcast channels with messages from the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters treating Mr. Jolly as the man from the Flat Earth Society for his measured skepticism about global warming.

This congressional district, the Florida 13th, was made to measure for global warming hysteria and wild speculation about hurricanes, tidal waves, tsunamis and wild salty beasts ready to emerge from the Gulf and devour the town.

But the weather from the Gulf — Florida is nearly always the first port of call of killer hurricanes — was not as scary as electing another Obama pal to Congress.

The global-warming stuff was reprised without let-up, and for once the Republican candidate didn’t flinch or take the bait. Mr. Jolly never answered the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters or Alex Sink.

He continued to hammer the Democrats in general and Ms. Sink in particular about Obamacare, inviting the Sink campaign to sink its campaign chest on a subject that clearly nobody cared about.

The Republicans can’t expect to face campaigns like that in the fall. Democrats learn from their mistakes, and soon they’ll put up candidates in other districts with the discipline to stay on message. No armchair gynecologists to ruin sure things for them. But nobody can yet see just what that message could be.

For a while, most of them will stick close to Barack Obama. Candidates will be loyal to the president for a while, like a chicken taking a couple of steps after the farmer’s wife has cut off its head.

One congressional race does not a trend make, but it’s a warning that only the foolish ignore. The Democratic spinners are hard at work 24/7, and coming up not much better than the resident oracle at Real Clear Politics, who writes that “to begin with, special elections aren’t bellwethers, except when they are. If that doesn’t sound particularly helpful, well, it isn’t meant to.” (That clears that much up.)

This feels like the beginning of a wave, to sweep the slow, the timid and the wrongheaded out of the way. Voters this year have had enough of Dr. Obama’s medicine, and it’s going to take more sugar than the Democrats have to make this medicine go down.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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